While Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde announced on Monday that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had given the green signal for the 4,000-MW Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) at Bedabahal in Orissa, the clearance has come with a catch. The MoEF has imposed “stringent conditions'' for coal mining including scrapping another proposed power project and rejection of mining in a coal block allotted to NTPC Ltd.

The UMPP had been held up pending environmental clearance for coal mining in the “no go'' areas block.

Now the MoEF has laid down that mining will be allowed in only 65 hectares of the total 265-ha area. “They [project developers] will have to leave out 200 hectares and mining will be allowed in the Bedabahal coal block of the “no go area'' only in the remaining [area],'' Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu when asked about Mr. Shinde's claim.

As a result of clearance in the Bedabahal coal block, NTPC would have to give up mining in the Dulanga block. Similarly, he said, the proposed power project by Orissa PGL would not be allowed to come up.

On his part, Mr. Shinde said the Power Ministry was yet to receive official MoEF confirmation. “Orissa UMPP has been cleared. We are hopeful of receiving the documents from the Environment Ministry soon,” he told journalists at an NTPC event held here to mark his five years as Power Minister.

The Bedabahal UMPP is situated close to two projects — one being implemented by NTPC and the other by the Orissa government — which under the MoEF conditions, if adhered to, will not come up.

The Power Finance Corporation (PFC), nodal agency for implementation of UMPPs in the country, has already postponed the process of inviting preliminary bids for the Orissa UMPP till March.

The MoEF had put three coal blocks allotted for the project — Meenakshi, Meenakshi B and the dipside of Meenakshi — in “no-go” areas. This means mining cannot take place in these areas, as it may cause damage to the environment.